Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Writing Role Models?
As some of you already know (because I've been geeking out about it for weeks!) I am currently taking a class about the Twilight phenomenon-- "Revamp: Writing and the Twilight Saga," being taught by Carrie Mesrobian at the Loft Literary Center here in Minneapolis. At our second class we talked about the fact that the books' protagonist, Bella, is in many ways a clean slate. She has no friends from her former school, doesn't share her memories of her past much, has no real hobbies, etc. Although this may be the secret of Twilight's success (because Bella's character is left so open-ended, it's easy for the reader to imagine herself in Bella's place and vicariously live the romantic fantasy), it flies in the face of what we usually think of as good character creation, which says that the more specific a character is, the better. As an exercise, we gave Bella a character make-over, each of us brainstorming how we would have made her different. The majority of people in our class wanted Bella to be more active, more opinionated, more secure-- more the confident young woman that we wish the YA readers of Twilight would emulate. This raised an interesting question for me: Do we as writers (and especially those of us who identify as feminist, and especially those of us writing for the supposedly impressionable youth) have any obligation to make our characters role models? And if we do, how do we do that without making our characters boringly perfect? How do we keep them flawed enough to have an arc, to have things to learn during the story? Are flawed characters still good role models? What do you think?